Book Review: Orthodoxy

Cover of
Cover of Orthodoxy

I recently finished reading G.K. Chesterton’s “Orthodoxy.”  It took me just shy of a year to finish it which is a little embarrassing considering that it is only 240 pages long.  However, compared to the last Christian book I read on the Templar Knights, “Orthodoxy” has a lot of “meat” to it giving me much to think about.  Like a papal encyclical, this book is very dense and you could honestly ponder and debate a single paragraph for hours.  The true genius of Chesterton is his ability to present these highly philosophical arguments in a witty and understandable way.

In “Orthodoxy” Chesterton offers an argument for the Christian faith.  He dives into why the ideas and values of Christianity make sense.  Each chapter presents an idea in the form of a question which Chesterton then tries to answer.  He doesn’t dive into the Catholic Catechism or the Bible for his answers but instead builds his arguments from the ground up using logical deductions and many examples drawn from his observations.  Essentially, Chesterton says that he was trying to build up a rational and consistent philosophy on how he should live.  It turns out that everything he thought was a good idea was not an original one as they had been part of Christian doctrine for centuries.

What impressed me about this book is how something written over one hundred years ago in England is still relevant today.  In fact, you would think that Chesterton was writing a blog about the current state of politics in the world.  That took me by surprise because I was expecting to read a book on spirituality.  Instead, I got discussions on politics, psychology, sociology, and ethics.  Chesterton doesn’t confine himself to a philosophical vacuum, but constructs his arguments based on what he sees and hears in the world around him.  The book even filled me with a little more optimism about our current world.  I see that many of the problems we face today have been around in modern society for centuries in one form or another.  Somehow the world has always moved forward despite everyone thinking that their generation’s problems will doom all of humanity and destroy our future.

I would put “Orthodoxy” on your reading list.  In fact, it might make the list twice as it probably requires a second reading in order to better understand Chesterton’s arguments.  I know that I’m going to put this book back on the shelf for another year or two and then give it another go.  This might be the first book I will read twice.  Yeah, it’s that interesting.

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Flash of Genius or Insanity?

In this article I take a look at the movie, “Flash of Genius,” and how it relates to many mysteries of the rosary. Even non-religious movies can offer great insight into the Catholic faith and provide some ideas for deeper rosary meditation. Beware, this article has movie spoilers.

In this article I take a look at the movie, “Flash of Genius,” and how it relates to many mysteries of the rosary.  Even non-religious movies can offer great insight into the Catholic faith and provide some ideas for deeper rosary meditation.  Beware, this article has movie spoilers.

The other night my wife and I rented the movie “Flash of Genius.”  It tells the true story of Robert Kearns, the man who invented the intermittent windshield wiper for automobiles only to have his idea stolen by the Ford motor company.  Kearns, over a twelve-year court battle, successfully sued Ford and earned recognition for his invention.

Please watch the trailer to the movie as it relates to the rest of the article:

According to the trailer, this looks like a classic “David vs. Goliath” tale.  You would think the movie portrays a family coming together to invent something very practical and ingenious.  They then need to work together and fight a huge corporation that stole their idea.  Through a lot of hard work and sacrifice they eventually win the lawsuit.  Sounds pretty rosy right?  However, the trailer leaves out a lot of the dark undertones that run throughout the film.  Actually, the movie presents a man who obsesses over the fact that someone took credit for his invention and pursues justice at all costs.  In pursuing this quest to get recognition for his work, Kearns alienates his friends and family.  His wife cannot handle the stress of the lawsuit and his refusal to settle with Ford.  She ends up leaving him and takes their six children (the movie does not say whether they got divorced).  At the end of the movie, after winning the lawsuit, a now gray-haired and frail Kearns reflects on how winning the case will never give him back the last twelve years of his life.  Unlike other movies where the audience feels happy when the main character wins in the end, this movie ends with a sense of hollowness since Kearns wins his case at a huge personal cost.

What does “Flash of Genius” have to do with the rosary and faith?  I think the movie is a great example on how sometimes we let our earthly pursuits distract us from living in God‘s grace by following His will.  Even when our pursuits are noble they can still lead us to act in ways that run counter to our faith.  In the movie, Kearns asks what type of example he would be if he just let someone get away with theft.  I ask, what type of example is someone who destroys his marriage and family to pursue recognition for an invention?  I’m not saying that Kearns should not have fought for what was right but he should have kept his lawsuit in perspective.  He basically made defending his invention more important than honoring his marriage and family.  This is an extreme example of what we do all the time which is put our earthly desires in front of our Heavenly ones.  Because Heaven, our souls, and the after life are such hard concepts to grasp we often settle for lesser goals such as wealth, fame, comfort, or earthly power.  But living solely for those fleeting prizes will not earn us more grace in God’s eyes and in the end won’t amount to any true happiness either in this life or the next.

Kearns’ situation in the movie reminds me of the Sorrowful Mysteries of the rosary.  I’m reminded about how unfairly the Pharisees, Jews, and Romans treated Jesus.  However, Jesus bore all that pain and suffering because it was God’s will.  In the Agony in the Garden, Jesus asked God to spare Him the suffering and crucifixion if possible.  However, He also said that it wasn’t His will, but God’s will that would be done.  And sometimes, pursuing God’s will can lead to unpleasant situations in our lives.  Living our faith does not mean we will always be treated fairly.  But our faith does give us a road map on how to live when others treat us badly.  It is not to pursue retribution or justice at all costs.  Jesus, even though his suffering and death showed us to love and forgive those who mistreat us.  How we act when the world treats us unfairly is the true test of our faith.  Faith is having the ability to say “yes” to God even if it will make life more difficult or means that you will give up some worldly benefit.  Living our faith may not always be easy but it is the only way to achieve lasting happiness.

I enjoyed “Flash of Genius” as a movie.  It was well made and the actors put on a good performance.  And while it was a much darker movie than what the trailers would have you believe, it was a good rental.  But it served more as a reminder of how shallow life’s little victories can be when they are solely centered on earthly pursuits.  The next time you pray the rosary ask yourself, for whose kingdom are you living?  God’s kingdom of Heaven or your kingdom on earth?

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Book Review: The Templars

I’m changing things up a little and providing a very brief review of an audiobook I just finished called “The Templars: Knights of Christ.” The goal of the author, Regine Pernoud, was to separate the fact from fiction regarding these monk warriors. They are often depicted as mysterious, magical, and secretive in movies like “The Divinci Code”, “National Treasure”, or “Kingdom of Heaven” and always having an ulterior motive behind everything they do. Several movies and books depict them as being involved in cover ups, plots to overthrow kings, and other wild conspiracies. However, the facts of this ancient order are more mundane. They mainly protected Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land and guarded treasures for royalty and banks. Unfortunately for the book, going through these facts was equally mundane and left me longing for a little Hollywood-style embellishment.

A Knights Templar seal
Image via Wikipedia

I’m changing things up a little and providing a very brief review of an audiobook I just finished called “The Templars: Knights of Christ.”  The goal of the author, Regine Pernoud, was to separate the fact from fiction regarding these monk warriors.  They are often depicted as mysterious, magical, and secretive in movies like “The Divinci Code”, “National Treasure“, or “Kingdom of Heaven” and always having an ulterior motive behind everything they do.  Several movies and books depict them as being involved in cover ups, plots to overthrow kings, and other wild conspiracies.  However, the facts of this ancient order are more mundane.  They mainly protected Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land and guarded treasures for royalty and banks.  Unfortunately for the book, going through these facts was equally mundane and left me longing for a little Hollywood-style embellishment.

In order to dispel the myths of the Templars, the book goes into great detail about their charter, rules, daily life, war campaigns, and forts and dwellings.  It cites many original documents to ensure accuracy.  Unfortunately, the book covers everything in so much detail that I started to “zone out” during sections of the first few chapters.  It is very difficult to stay engaged and interested as the book goes on for several minutes listing the Templar’s military campaigns in the Middle East or describing their clothing regulations in a checklist-like style fashion.  Instead of these details providing a complete overall picture of the Templars, they become distracting as the book dives deep into the minutia of their lives.  The book gets mildly more interesting towards the end as it covers the Templar’s accusations, trials and eventual breakup.  But even that section comes across very dry and drawn out as it cites court documents and statements from the period.

Unfortunately, “The Templars: Knights of Christ” comes up short on addressing the myths and falsehoods of the order.  I really wish the book actually addressed how certain movies and books depict Templars and then explain the historical inaccuracies of those premises.  Instead it just assumes that the reader (or listener in my case) will already know about how the Templars are depicted in popular culture and immediately jumps into citing historical documents.   Possibly the book makes a better reading experience than listening experience.  In short, I found this audiobook only mildly interesting so I can only mildly recommend it.  Hopefully my next book (G.K. Chesterson’s “Orthodoxy”) will prove more interesting.

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Remembering the True Gift of Christmas

I would like to wish everyone a very merry Christmas! All through human existence people have been searching for meaning; to make sense of everything in this world. In other words, we have been searching for God and trying to know His ways. On Christmas, God answered that eternal question through the birth of Jesus Christ.

img_2639I would like to wish everyone a very merry Christmas!  All through human existence people have been searching for meaning; to make sense of everything in this world.  In other words, we have been searching for God and trying to know His ways.  On Christmas, God answered that eternal question through the birth of Jesus Christ.  He became flesh so that we could try to comprehend His incomprehensible nature.  And we find that God is not distant, petty, or power-hungry like the false gods people worshiped in ages past, but is as innocent and humble as a newborn baby.  May we embrace this great gift from God by increasing our faith and love for Jesus.

On the practical side, let us remember to take advantage of Christmas Mass whether that be on Christmas eve, midnight, or Christmas day.  I know all too often Christmas Mass is seen as something to “get out of the way” if we even go at all.  And often we spend our time at Mass thinking, “I wonder what is in that big box under the tree?”  Or, “I need to get home and start on that turkey!”  I know sometimes I just “zone out” and start scanning the congregation for friends I have not seen in a long time.  I just want to remind you that the Mass is the high point of this holiday.  As I mentioned in my Third Joyful Mystery Meditation, let us not be consumed by the “trappings” of Christmas even if it can only be for that one hour during Mass (hey, it’s a start).  Really take in the Mass and the Blessed Sacrament and reflect on the greatest gift humanity has ever received — a personal and loving relationship with God.

Merry Christmas!

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Random Thought: Forgiveness

There is no such thing as an unforgivable sin.

There is no such thing as an unforgivable sin.  No matter how far you may stray, God will always welcome you back.  And He will never hold a grudge or tell you “I told you so.”

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Random Thought: Divine Insurance

Your eternal soul is too important to leave only to God’s mercy. Get a little extra insurance by living in God’s grace by doing His will and avoiding sin.

Your eternal soul is too important to leave only to God’s mercy.  Get a little extra insurance by living in God’s grace by doing His will and avoiding sin.

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Random Thought: Forever

This is a great quote from Father Corpapi:

In the end, forever, you and I will be in Heaven or Hell. Period.

The question is, are you working towards Heaven or Hell?

This is a great quote from Father Corpapi:

In the end, forever, you and I will be in Heaven or Hell.  Period.

The question is, are you  working towards Heaven or Hell?

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Random Thought: Living God’s Word

Judas received the best spiritual teaching and guidance as one of Jesus’ apostles. And yet, he never took Jesus’ message to heart and betrayed Him. Remember that just listening to God’s Word isn’t the same as living God’s Word.

Judas received the best spiritual teaching and guidance as one of Jesus’ apostles.  And yet, he never took Jesus’ message to heart and betrayed Him.  Remember that just listening to God’s Word isn’t the same as living God’s Word.

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Random Thought: Acting Saintly

The earliest saints were liars, cowards, and doubters. They were Jesus’ apostles. Remember that the next time you doubt your abilities to do God’s will.

The earliest saints were liars, cowards, and doubters.  They were Jesus’ apostles.  Remember that the next time you doubt your abilities to do God’s will.

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Random Thought: Friendship

Friends talk to each other and treat each other kindly. Have you been Jesus’ friend today?

Friends talk to each other and treat each other kindly.  Have you been Jesus’ friend today?

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